§ Major HORE-BELISHA
I do not intend to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the subject with which he has just dealt except to say that I think it would be a very wise thing to accept as a principle that the State should employ its servants in any branch of the Civil or Military Services accordingly as they may be suitable, and the State should allow them to carry their pension rights with them. That would he useful in the case of naval men who, after obtaining their pensions, go into the dockyards, and if they were allowed to count the time of the dockyard service as an extra pension, it would be a concession which could be justified. I merely rose to call atten- 1848 tion to the question of the marriage allowance to naval officers. This question has been brought up regularly week by week in this House for a very considerable period. I have been a member of this House for nearly two years, and I do not think a single week has passed without my raising this question, and almost continuously I have been told that the matter is under consideration. It was under consideration by the last Government, and it was under consideration by the preceding Government.
In the last Government on one of the Supply days, this subject was chosen by the party now in power for the specific purpose of calling attention to this question. Therefore, it is not a party question. They expressed at that time strong views about the time consumed in the consideration of this question, and I am sure that they have received the result of their efforts with great disappointment. Nobody can say that there has not been full and adequate time given to this question not only by this Government but by previous Governments. The last Government appointed a Committee which as I understand reported unfavourably as to the granting of these marriage allowances to the only Service in which they do not apply. The Report of that Committee was presented not to the last Government but to the present Government. It was considered and the result of the consideration was that the House of Commons was asked to vote a sum of £350,000 for the purpose of giving these allowances to naval officers.
There are in this House, as there are outside, a considerable number of persons who scan the Navy Estimates with a very critical eye with the object of eliminating any possible item from those Estimates, and it is significant that no single Member of this House, however much he might disapprove of money being spent on the fighting Services, raised any objection to this Vote of £350,000 which the Government sought in order to meet these allowances. There was no Party considerations involved in the matter at all. The House of Commons, utilising its historical functions, granted the Supply, and the taxpayers, accordingly, were taxed for the purpose of providing this money which had been allotted to a specific purpose.
1849 All Members who were interested in this matter on all sides of the House imagined that it had been disposed of once and for all; that it had emerged from its long period of consideration into the region of decision. There was a period of delay. No scales were announced, and we were beginning to wonder what had happened. We asked whether the Government were proposing to grant these allowances, and the answer, to our amazement, was that the matter was under consideration. That answer had been given previously in the granting of the Estimates, and those who have any knowledge of public finance know that no item appears in the Estimates which has not been subjected to very careful scrutiny in the Department, which has not been corrected and examined and sifted by the Treasury; and it is, therefore, to be supposed that not only the Admiralty but the Treasury also, with a knowledge of all the facts and figures, had definitely and specifically approved of these allowances being granted. And the House of Commons endorsed the decision, it thought that the decision of the Admiralty was a just and meritorious one.
I hope I shall have the attention of the right hon. Gentleman on this point, because there are a great many people awaiting his announcement with great interest. I say that the Treasury must have examined and approved of these Estimates before they were presented to Parliament. Therefore, the period of consideration to all intents and purposes had been completed. The House of Commons had approved of the Treasury decision, and of the Admiralty's decision, but no allowances were forthcoming. We were told, to our amazement, that the matter was under consideration. We had been told that over a period of months. Gradually, the answer changed into this form of words: "An announcement will shortly be made"; and those whose hopes had been roused really felt, and had some reason for feeling, that the matter would be no longer delayed, and that they would be paid their allowances.
To their astonishment, the Prime Minister came down to the House of Commons, three days ago, and said that these allowances were not to be granted 1850 at all. His words are worthy of examination. They were these:The Government have made a most careful and prolonged inquiry into the relative position in pay and allowances of all kinds of officers of the three fighting Services—Let me observe that this careful consideration must have preceded the introduction of the Estimates. It is absolutely ridiculous to say, after the House of Commons has voted a sum of money, that the matter is one which should be further considered. One presumes that the Government devotes its considerations to more important and pressing matters, and leaves the consideration of matters already disposed of alone. What is significant is that this announcement coincided with the granting of a very large and indeterminate sum of money to the coal mines. That question was not kept under consideration week after week and year after year; and it is a much larger sum of money than is required to do justice to this Service.
One cannot avoid the impression—the two announcements coming simultaneously —that in order to grant a subsidy to the coal mines the Government have decided to penalise the naval officers. That is the conclusion to which a large number of naval officers have come; and one cannot avoid sharing their suspicion. A sum of money had been voted by the House of Commons, and it is only taken away at the period when this large sum of money was granted to the coal mines. The Prime Minister went on to say:They have reached the conclusion that the position of naval officers, whether married or single, taken as a whole, is not inferior to that of officers in the other two Services. In these circumstances they consider that no case has been made out for granting the additional allowance."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th August, 1925; col. 1345, Vol. 187.]It is rather an amazing thing to say, that no case has been made out for the granting of allowances which the House of Commons has already Voted. And seeing that the Navy has so many enemies do not the Government realise that it is creating a bad precedent to ask the House of Commons to vote money for such a purpose as this and then decide that it had no business to ask the House for the money at all. In future when the Navy Estimates come up for consideration, they will give rise to more furious considera- 1851 tion and examination. This will be cited as a precedent. It will be said that the Admiralty and the Government is in the habit of asking for money which the Navy does not require at all. We have had an unfortunate precedent in the case of cruisers. It is bad to bring the Navy and its affairs into the realm of controversy and give rise to the criticism that the Government asks for money for the Navy which it does not want. It is ridiculous to say that the matter is under consideration when Parliament has already considered the matter.
The Prime Minister, speaking for the Government, has turned this question down on the ground that "The position of naval officers, whether married or single, taken as a whole is not inferior to that of officers in the other two Services." The Member for Galloway (Sir A. Henniker-Hughan) spoke very forcibly on the Navy Estimates, and I understand he is going to speak this afternoon. He will be able to answer that point; much better than I can. But, looking at it with the eyes of a civilian, and having care-fully examined the comparative rates of pay which prevail in the three Services, taking into account the allowances which are paid in these respective Services, one cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that the naval officer is much worse off than his brother officers in the other Services. Had it not been so there would not have been so clamant a demand for these allowances from all sides of the House.
I do not care what figures the right hon. Gentleman has—it is a positive fact, which cannot be denied, that rank for rank, the average pay of a naval officer as compared with that of the Army or the Air Force officer is inferior, and you have no right to take the pay of a naval officer, whether married or single as a whole, and compare it with the total sum paid to the Army or the Air Force officer. You are dealing here with individuals, and individuals matter a great deal. You are dealing here with officers who have wives and families to support. Can the right hon. Gentleman say that these officers in the Navy are not in a worse position than their brother officers in the Army. They have a much better right to claim this marriage allowance than the officer in the Army or in the 1852 Air Force. The naval officer is separated from his wife for much longer periods; he has a much more arduous existence; he lives under much more difficult and hazardous conditions, and he has more uniforms to maintain. The Army officer can have his wife with him practically everywhere. The naval officer cannot take his wife on board ship. He has two homes to maintain, he has more uniforms to keep up, and, what is more, as the hon. and gallant Member for Galloway pointed out, the Navy is an hereditary Service. If you look at the Navy List you will find the names of Admirals perpetuated generation after generation. It is, therefore, ridiculous at this stage to say that you should encourage celibacy in that Service, which has provided us traditionally and consecutively with the most famous sailors in history.
Taken on every ground, I cannot see a single argument that can be raised for depriving the naval officer of an allowance which is given in the other Services. If an Air Force officer—and the Air Force is a very much younger Service—is attached to an aircraft carrier, he gets the allowance in respect of his wife, but the naval officer does not get any in respect of his. Everyone knows that the naval officer is already in a very unfortunate position. I have had many telegrams from naval officers since the Prime Minister made this announcement, and I have had the most sorrowful and pitiful letters from those who wished to send their sons into the Navy but could not afford it, saying that, if this marriage allowance had been granted, it would have assisted them considerably. Their hopes have been raised, but it would have been better to have said definitely that the Government had considered the matter and were making no provision for married officers' allowance, than to have behaved as the Government have done. I am not saying it in any partisan spirit, but it is a most unfortunate and melancholy thing that these officers should have been encouraged to believe, and that their wives, who have their homes to keep together, should have been encouraged to believe, that they were going to get these allowances, that they should have been kept waiting week after week while the Government said they were still considering the matter and were going to 1853 give a decision in a few days, and that then, on the very eve of the day when the House of Commons was asked to vote £10,000,000 for a service which, unlike the Navy, can go on strike and inconvenience the community, this very moment should be chosen for depriving these officers of the money which the House of Commons intended that they should have.
§ Admiral Sir ARTHUR HENNIKER-HUGHAN
After the extraordinarily eloquent speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Major Hore-Belisha), there is very little for me to say on this subject, but I should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member on the very excellent way in which he has laid before the House the hardships that the Navy is suffering owing to this recent decision of the Government. I have no axe to grind in connection with this matter. I represent an agricultural constituency: I do not represent any dockyard at all. But I think I am the oldest naval officer, as regards years at any rate, in the House at present, and I felt that I could not let this decision which has just been given by the Government pass unchallenged by me, as one of the naval officers in this House. It was, as the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport has said, stated in this House, I think by the Prime Minister—I was not here at the time—that this extra marriage allowance was not requisite for the naval officer, because his pay had been raised fairly recently, and would be commensurate with what the other Services were getting. About three weeks ago I took the trouble to go and see the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, and I said to him, "Can you honestly tell me that, if the naval officer gets his marriage allowance, he will be in a better position than his brother officer in similar ranks in the Army and Air Force?" He assured me that that was not the case. He said— I think I am right in my quotation; the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) was with me at the time —that, even when the naval officer does get his marriage allowance, in many cases he will not be so well off as his opposite number of similar rank both in the Army and in the Air Force. I think that that is a very conclusive argument in favour of the naval officer getting his marriage allowance, considering that it was given 1854 to me by the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty.
I know that old crusted officers used to say to me, as I quoted in my first speech in this House, that in the Navy he who marries is marred, and it is still said that it would be a very bad thing for the Service if young naval officers were married. I do not think that that view is shared by the Admiralty authorities although it is not my place, as a Member of the House of Commons, to quote any-thing I hear or receive from the Admiralty. At the same time, whatever may be the ideas as to the good of the Service with regard to the young naval officer being married or otherwise, the whole point is whether a thing is right or whether a thing is wrong. I do not think that any Member sitting in this House at the present moment can say that it is right that the naval officer should be the only member of the fighting forces not to receive a marriage allowance. It all boils down to that. Arguments can be put forward, and speeches can be made, but that is what it boils down to—whether it is right or whether it is wrong. I am perfectly certain that in this case it is right that the naval officer should receive this allowance.
At present, married naval officers are at a considerable disadvantage. Married officers in the Army or Air Force are not subject to Income Tax on allowances, nor are their allowances subject to the 5½ per cent. cut which was recently made. Consequently, the emoluments paid, with allowances, make Army and Air Force officers considerably better off than the naval officer. I suggest that a committee should be set up by the Admiralty, consisting of two outside civilians who have nothing to do with any Government office, and one Army officer, and that they should decide this point once and for all, so that the House can really come to a proper conclusion as to whether these allowances should be given to naval officers or not. The hon. and gallant Member for Devonport has gone so fully into this question that really there is nothing more for me to add; but I should like to say, in conclusion, that there is no more loyal and efficient servant of the State than the naval officer at the present time, and I am quite certain that, even though this marriage allowance is being kept from him at present, it will make no difference 1855 to his zeal and energy in serving the State. I should like to point out to the House, however, that there has been a great dashing of the hopes which he thought were near fruition, and I cannot help thinking that it will be a bitter pill for him to swallow.
The very able speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Major Hore-Belisha) covers the whole case that we have to put before the Government. I want to put the Prime Minister's answer on record. Of all the feeble things I have ever heard in the House of Commons, that was one of the feeblest. He said:The Government have made a most careful and prolonged inquiry into the relative position in pay and allowances of all kinds of officers of the three fighting Services. They have reached the conclusion that the position of naval officers, whether married or single, taken as a whole, is not inferior to that of officers in the other two Services. In these circumstances they consider that no case has been made out for granting the additional allowance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th August, 1925; col. 1345, Vol. 187.]No case after the Government had passed £350,000 towards the marriage allowance! The Prime Minister has made no case for his answer. He said at the time the pay was settled a few years ago all considerations were taken into account. If that is the fact why did they make that prolonged inquiry? During the War the naval officer had to have an allowance for his child, otherwise he would probably have starved. After the War, when the Jerram Report was put up and the general rates of pay were improved, that allowance was taken off, but later on the same year the Army and Air Force rates were revised and, in addition to giving them higher rates of pay than in the Navy, they gave a marriage allowance for officers over 30. The Halsey Committee stipulated that the new rates of pay were conditional on three things. The first was the service rates of Income Tax Now the naval officers are paying the full rate. The second was free passages for wives and families going abroad and an allowance. They never got that. Army and Air Force officers have free passages for their families.
Even the Anderson Committee admitted that the pay of naval officers did not com- 1856 pare favourably with the Army and the Air Force so I really feel that the Prime Minister has let us down in the most ununderstandable way at the very moment when he is finding that enormous sum for the miners. I do not think for a moment it was the Prime Minister. I do not think it was the Admiralty. I know who it was. It was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was beaten over his cruisers so he took it out of the women and children. That reverses the whole policy of a sailor. He says "Women and children first." The Chancellor of the Exchequer says "Women and children last." I am surprised and deeply hurt, and I think throughout the Service there will be real dismay. The majority of the men in the Navy are Conservatives, so they looked to the Conservative Government. The case has been made out dozens of times. It is no good saying they are in as good a position as the Air Force. They are not. But this is what hurts me most of all. They know, when they come to cut down in the Admiralty, that the Admiralty are there to defend themselves, but when they cut down the marriage allowance there is no one there to defend them. I am certain the Admiralty have done what they could. The people who have really let us down are the Cabinet. This is all at the dictation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They need in the Cabinet a woman—someone who will stand up to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is a cruel thing to wait for five years, then vote the money, and then at the very last minute say there is no occasion for it. I could give the position of the naval officers' wives. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) could draw the picture. He could wring tears from the House of Commons. And it is true. What those women have had to go through in the last five years waiting for this allowance no one knows. They will not complain. They are not that way. It will not really affect the service. They will go on giving their very best and doing their best for the State and they will not let the Navy down. But imagine what it means to the men abroad who are serving the State to know that the Government have let their wives down.
It is not very pleasant to attack your Government. I do not like it. It is a Government I am more or less responsible 1857 for. I could tell of an officer's wife travelling back from Malta. She had to come back second class, while a petty officer's wife came back first class. When the lower deck men are making a demand, the first thing they ask for is for marriage allowances for officer's wives. The officers fought for their marriage allowances, and they will fight for theirs. I hope before it is too late the Government will stand up to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and tell him to economise on something else. If he wants to economise there are lots of things he can do, but do not take the women and children of the Navy, for it is a hereditary service, not only on the upper deck but on the lower deck. A lower deck man told me the other day that his great-great-grandfather had been a captain under Nelson, and they had been in the Navy ever since. Do you not want the young men to marry, and if they marry do you not want the children educated? Do you not want them to have as good a chance as the wives and children of the Army and the Air. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the unemployed?"] I am not going to get into any controversy over these. I would have done it five years ago, but it is too late now. I implore the Government at least to reconsider this, and not to make it almost impossible for us who backed them and fought for them in every way. Do not let them do such a really cowardly thing as to let down people who cannot speak for themselves.
§ Mr. HARRISON
I entirely agree with every word that has been spoken on this subject. The points that have been made do not require to be made again by me, but I am sure the House will be interested to know from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to what purpose the money which has been voted for marriage allowances is to be devoted. The disappointment is intense. If, as the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) has pointed out, we have to look to the future, and if we are to have a rising generation suitable for the Navy, we might as well look at what is the existing pay in the Navy. I happened to pick up a volume of the Naval Estimates, and I find that a midshipman's pay is £73 a year. In the Navy of to-day and in the Navy of the future it will not be always possible for young 1858 men to go into the Service with a financial backing behind them.
If you are going to pay youngsters who start in a Service in which they are going to make a life career, £73 a year, the position will be very difficult. A youngster, the other day, a midshipman, whose parents are not too well off, told me that after paying his messing allowances and other allowances on board ship, he had a balance of half a crown at the end of the month. He will never be able to save anything out of that for marriage. If we take the age at which marriage generally is indulged in by those who are fortunate enough to indulge in it, and if you take a lieutenant-commander of about the age of 30, he receives on promotion £517, rising to £587 at the end of four years' service. That is not a sum of money on which young officers can maintain two homes. The Navy of the future will be based more upon our shores than in the past. Therefore, this question of marriage allowance is of prime importance.
The other day I asked the Financial Secretary whether he would not grant to naval officers a privilege which I believe is enjoyed by the other two Services in regard to medical attention. I suggest that when these young men have the fortune to marry and to be blessed as parents, it would be a considerable help to them financially if they could get medical attention for their wives. He replied that under Vote 8 they could get it; but I find that is for dockyard personnel. There are many officers' wives who live in and around our dockyard towns, whose husbands are not borne on Vote 8, and whose husbands are serving on the high seas. Where a medical staff is centred in these dockyard places, the wives within reasonable distance might be given the privilege of medical attention. That would considerably help these officers in the case of medical attention for their families.
We appreciate the fact that economy is very necessary. Economy is a virtue, but parsimony is a vice, and one of the deadliest vices if it is applied to the defence forces of this country.
I can only answer the points that have been raised, by consent of the House. Perhaps it would be convenient if I now reply to the points 1859 raised so skilfully and sympathetically by hon. Members for dockyard constituencies and other hon. Members who are in touch with the Navy.
§ Sir H. FOSTER
Will the right hon. Gentleman cover the point of the implied pledge which has been given by the publication of the Naval Estimates, and by a Vote of the House of Commons?
§ Mr. J. JONES
On a point of Order. May I ask why no speaker on the Labour side has been allowed to take part in this discussion? Some of us have something to say.
That is not a point of Order. Two subjects have been initiated from hon. Members above the Gangway on the Opposition side. The other parts of the House must have a turn.
§ Mr. MAXTON
While it is true that those Debates were initiated from these benches, the Debates were not solely participated in by the occupants of these benches. When the right hon. Member rose to speak again, with the consent of the House, it is very questionable whether the Members on these benches are prepared to grant that.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I am much obliged to you, Sir, and to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity of speaking on this matter. We do not represent dockyard constituencies, but we are in sympathy with the claim which has been made. We agree that every man and every woman who serves the State ought to be recognised as people of importance in the State. I only wish those hon. Members opposite when they had a chance a few weeks ago would have treated all the servants of the State in the same way. We claim that the man and the woman who works in mine, factory or workshop are entitled to equal consideration with those who wear uniform. Unfortunately, we discovered when we were putting forward the claims 1860 of these men, women and children that some of those hon. Members who have been most sympathetic and enthusiastic and emotional in their appeals to-day walked into the Division Lobby against the workers who happen to be unemployed. As far as we are concerned we are willing to go into the Lobby to see that justice is done to all the servants of the State serving in the Navy, the Army or anywhere else, and we want equal justice done to the people who have to keep the Army and the Navy. The Army and the Navy cannot keep themselves. They have to be kept by the labour of the people. If you are to treat the Army officer and the Naval officer as a person who ought to be treated decently, we agree with you, but we want the same treatment for every citizen who does useful service in return for the nation to which they belong.
I want to raise another matter, perhaps of a less serious kind. The Chairman of the Kitchen Committee is present. Reports have appeared in the newspapers recently that a revolution has taken place in the constitution of the Kitchen Committee. The hon. Member for Dunbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has been elected as a member of the Committee, and I congratulate him upon that high honour, although it is below stairs. One of the matters that has been raised is the question of porridge for Members of the House after 9o'clock at night. That may be a Scottish dish. I do not know much about it. I was brought up on "stir-about" in Ireland. I am led to understand that the hon. Member has been specially commissioned to go to Scotland to discover the best way of making porridge, and to purchase the necessary utensils. I do not know whether the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee can give us definite information on this great problem. What I want to ask is whether London Members particularly those who live in the East End, can have special arrangements made so that we may have fish and chips after nine o'clock. There are a number of us who would be glad to provide the necessary material and all the essentials for doing the thins in the proper manner.
A report appears in the Press this morning that the Committee have decided to allow Members of Parliament a certain amount of grace in the payment of their bills, and that 10 per cent. increase will 1861 be charged if the bills are not paid within a limited time. I want to know if they take the Members on their faces or on their banking accounts. Some of us cannot get any credit at all, because people know that very often we cannot afford to pay, but we do want to know something of these great matters of importance. The Chairman of the Kitchen Committee has kindly consented to be here to hear what I have to say, and I would ask him if he is prepared to tell us what is the exact position of the hon. Member for Dumbarton and the Kitchen Committee?
While the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee is considering his reply to the hon. Member, perhaps I might be allowed to refer to the question of marriage allowances in the Navy. The hon. Member for Devonport and others have asked why this money was put in the Vote if it was not intended to institute a system of marriage allowances. The answer was made perfectly clear at the time. It was stated in the Debates on the Naval Estimates on 19th March by the First Lord of the Admiralty that this money had been put in pending a decision by the Government. He said:The present position is that the Admiralty have put up what they believe to be a strong case in favour of marriage allowances being granted. That case has been submitted to the Co-ordinating Committee now sitting, which I hope will shortly report to the Cabinet.… We have calculated roughly that the cost will be about £350,000 for naval officers' allowances if our proposals are accepted by the Co-ordinating Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th March, 1925: col. 2520, Vol. 181.]So there was no reason for misunderstanding from the very start, when the Estimates were first published.
That was the scale of allowances put forward by the Admiralty. As the hon. Member knows, it has been continually dealt with by question and answer in the House since then, and I cannot believe that there is any officer who has studied the Estimates, and has been looking over what happened in Parliament, who could be in any doubt on the matter. A new doctrine has been enunciated by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Foster) that the House, by passing this Estimate, practically im- 1862 posed on the Government the obligation of paying these marriage allowances.
It is an entirely new doctrine that there is any obligation on the Government to expend up to the maximum provided for in the Votes.
In the case of all these Estimates, the Executive of the day is in no way bound to spend the money. The question was asked, what would happen if the money were not spent; and various suggestions were made as to the object to which it was to be diverted. Of course, the answer is that if the money is not spent, like any other surplus, it is surrendered to the Exchequer. Every year, I am glad to say, we get these surrenders.
It could be transferred or go back into the amalgamated balances at the disposal of the Government, or for any other purpose. It had equally nothing whatever to do with the decision about the mines. The noble Lady will remember that this matter was being considered by the Admiralty long before any question of a mining subsidy arose. There is no deep motive to apply the money to any other form of expenditure. The matter has been considered by the Government, and in their judgment it had 1863 to be turned down on its merits. Let me briefly explain the case as it appears to the Government. The scale of pay and allowances in the Navy is largely based on the report of the Halsey Committee of 1919. Deliberately, at that time, the Navy chose to have higher pay and to forego the system which found favour in the Army of lower pay and higher allowances. The Navy did that with their eyes open and for reasons which seemed good to them.
Naval officers deliberately, with their eyes open, preferred not to have this system of marriage allowances. The report of that Committee was co-ordinated with the inquiries which had taken place as to the new scale of pay for the Army and the Air Force, and the whole scheme of each service was compared with the other schemes. It is true that the Army had a different system, but it was coordinated at that time, in 1919, and the Army chose to take lower pay and to have fuel and light and lodging allowances at a higher rate.
§ Sir A. HENNIKER-HUGHAN
Can the right hon. Gentleman say that if the marriage allowance was given to Naval officers now they would be in a better position, rank for rank, than Army officers?
I will come to that in a moment. Since that arrangement was come to, the value of the pay has undoubtedly become higher. The cost of living was 110 per cent. above pre-War level at the time, and it is down now to 75 per cent. It is true that there was a deduction of 5½ per cent., but that is not the equivalent of the fall in the cost of living. No doubt a strong demand grew up afterwards for a system of marriage allowances, and the hon. Member for Sutton has indicated to us how this feeling started. She mentioned that the Air personnel had these allowances, and the Navy would like to have them too. There is no doubt there has been a strong feeling in the Navy that there is an injustice. Under this Government and, I understand, under the last Government the matter has been gone into. I have made 1864 inquiries as to the Committee which was said to have been set up by the last Government and to have reported in favour of this concession, but I can get no information on the subject whatever, and it certainly never reported to this Government.
§ Sir H. FOSTER
The right hon. Gentleman knows that the warrant officers and the lower deck had the marriage allowance.
That was under another Committee which also sat in 1919. The present Government examined the matter exhaustively. First there was an inquiry between the Treasury and the representatives of the fighting Services and that inquiry was not of a perfunctory character as has been suggested. As a matter of fact, it examined the conditions, rank for rank and age for age, and as far as possible on a truly comparable basis between the three Services. After that there was a Cabinet Committee and all these inquiries have been directed towards deciding what is the true relativity of the rates in the three Services. Possibly we may find at one period of service an advantage in favour of one Service and in another period of service an advantage in favour of another, but taking it generally, the inquiries do not show that there was any case for giving this concession to the Navy or that it could he done without upsetting the relativity with the other Services which was carefully co-related in 1919 and without provoking equivalent demands from the Army and the Air Force. The Government have gone into this with the greatest sympathy and the greatest care—
I do not know exactly what the Anderson Committee said, but that was before the other Committee which recently went into the matter. It clearly would not have been sound, to allay discontent in the Navy at the expense of arousing fresh discontent in the sister Services. At the present time, it is difficult to justify any increase in pay or allowances. As the House knows, there is a movement for reducing the pay 1865 of new entrants into the Services. Of course, there is no question of interfering with existing contracts, but the matter is being examined with a view to finding what should be a fair rate of pay for those who in the future enter the Services. Besides that, demands are continually put forward by the lower deck which for reasons of economy have to be rejected. Side by side with the position of the Services there is the position throughout the industries of the country. All classes are being obliged to look closely into the standard of life which is possible in our present difficulties, and I think for these reasons, unless an actual clear injustice can be made out as regards one Service as compared with the two sister Services, it is not a time to increase the burden on the Exchequer. I cannot for that reason hold out any prospect that this subject will be reopened.
§ Sir GERALD STRICKLAND
I beg to refer to the urgency of speeding up cotton growing within the Empire.
§ Mr. J. JONES
On a point of Order. Cannot I have an answer to my question from the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee?
§ Sir JAMES AGG-GARDNER
I did not know the hon. Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones) desired a distinct answer to his question. I thought his remarks were more in the nature of a somewhat humorous criticism of the conduct of his colleague the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), and that, therefore, any reply should come rather from him than from myself. I am glad to say that the Kitchen Committee fully appreciate the assistance which has been presented to it by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs. There is, however, one matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the suggestions which have been, I am sorry to say, somewhat loosely broadcast, to the effect that hon. Members omit to discharge the debts they have incurred to the Committee. Those suggestions are entirely uncalled for. I have been 20 or 30 years a member of the Kitchen Committee, and I have never known any occasion on which a Member has incurred a bad debt. Though at times sums may be owing, we know full well that they will 1866 be met before the Session closes, and there is not the slightest ground, I can assure the House, for the suggestions in question.
§ Sir G. STRICKLAND
With regard to the urgency for speeding up cotton growing within the Empire, the arguments are too well known to make it necessary for me to elaborate them, but I wish to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend that the financial education and routine mentality of Colonial Office officials are not suitable for taking the financial risks that have become necessary in dealing with this very urgent question under present conditions. It is more to the point that those methods should be adopted which are practised by responsible Ministers for the development of new countries like Australia. There should be less red tape and greater risks should be taken, and greater facilities should be given to private enterprise on far broader and more speculative lines than Crown Colony officials are trained for or are allowed to be in the habit of taking. As in Australia, there is the added value of the unearned increment of the improved land to give a margin for bold financial experiments. There are now three bodies dealing with cotton development, and they should be under a special Department and co-ordinated.
The Cotton Growing Association was started when I was administering a cotton-growing colony: it and two other organisations are still acting independently. I wish to pass to the repeated suggestions for low temperature carbonisation of coal. When that comes into practice, according to scientific experts, we shall have 8,000,000 units of heat from each ton of coal instead of 4,000,000, wherefore more miners will be thrown out of employment, and more subsidies will be required. The demand for oil instead of coal is increasing and probably one of the remedies that will have to be applied is to arrange from to-day for emigration to Australia as well as for migration to the better paying coalfield of South Yorkshire. If we are to solve the coal trouble of England, the most important thing is to ascertain how we may be able to produce coal cheap enough to compete with other countries, who are our rivals in the foreign market, and perhaps it would be very much better 1867 if some of this £10,000,000 or £20,000,000, or whatever the total may be, were spent immediately by the Government in acquiring the necessary royalties—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—and mining rights and sink new profitable pits. If we are to compete successfully with foreign countries, we must transfer the mining population as soon as possible to where coal can be raised profitably.
I wish next to say a few words about the gold standard. [Interruption.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer very properly pointed out the many reasons for which the inflation of the currency would be ruinous, but he did not take all the well-deserved credit to himself, which might justly be claimed on account of the adoption of the gold standard. That step means, and has created a large and increasing augmentation of wages owing to the increased purchasing power of money of to-day, and this is enjoyed not only by the workers, but by every wage earner in the country. Nevertheless, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should realise that a parallel and probable result will also be that in three or four years' time we shall have to face a shortage of gold in Europe and a revival of the bimetalic problem.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
On a point of Order. May I ask how the hon. Member can connect the question of the gold standard with low-temperature carbonisation?
§ Sir G. STRICKLAND
I am entitled on the Adjournment to pass from one subject to another, and I am now passing to the next subject. My right hon. Friend, in proposing his Estimate, referred to the speech that Mr. Deakin delivered at the first Colonial Conference of 1887, at which I was present. The inspiring feature of that speech was to claim social and political equality for the Dominions. May I point out that the division of the Colonial Office into new Departments has been so long talked about, that its political and psychological influence has long been discounted. I venture strongly to urge that practical steps be taken in the direction indicated by Mr. Deakin to bring the Colonies closer to us. I have been an intimate friend of Mr. Deakin and other eminent legal personalities in Australia, and I think I can with confidence submit as a well-thought-out necessity that the high judicial officers from 1868 Australia who are made members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as a personal honour, should be put in actual fact in a position really to exercise the functions of members of the Judicial Committee for fixed periods in turn, and with suitable emoluments and allowances. It is not respectful to these great Colonial Judges to make them members of the Privy Council, and not make it possible that they should sit. Their salaries and travelling allowances are matters of detail of that kind for which, if in this connection no provision can be made in our Estimates, the Dominions are certain to be ready to come forward.
To pass to another subject—that of the salaries of Cabinet Ministers and Governors—may I point out that their salaries were fixed long ago in round sums, and before the days when Income Tax stood where it stands to-day. No industry is more sweated than that of Australian Governors, where the salaries are altogether inadequate and require to be largely supplemented from other sources. Successive Secretaries of State, for one reason or another, have not found time to deal with this question, and in view of that omission it is almost impossible to fill the Governorships in Australia in the ordinary way: even with giving titles the whole system requires co-ordination to the present value of money. Comments have been made, principally by hon. Members above the Gangway, on the system of government known as diarchy. Hon. Members perhaps do not realise that three-quarters of the Empire, if not more, is governed under a diarchical system. May I say, as an example, that we have evidence of diarchy in the contrast of the buildings of the County Council of London and this House on opposite sides of the Thames.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir G. STRICKLAND
I am endeavouring to give examples of the division of functions exercised by such legislative bodies in Australia as the Federal Parliament in contrast with State Parliaments, which furnish a parallel worthy of attention. The same division of functions applies to the Parliaments of the Provinces of Canada and the Federal Parliament at Ottawa. In reference 1869 to this division of duties, the higher functions—that is to say, the federal functions—are exercised by the Federal Parliaments. There, however, are two portions of the Empire, Southern Rhodesia and Malta, where there is a similar division of the functions of government of a federal character, but with this feature, that the superior functions still remain in the hands of this Imperial Parliament. In the same way as there can be no constitutional objection raised in the Federal Parliament of Australia if anyone is discussing matters that appertain federally, for instance, to Tasmanian problems, so also the Parliament of Malta discusses the functions assigned to it, and the remaining functions of federal government have to be discussed here. This is the only place where anyone can discuss the functions of government with reference to Southern Rhodesia and Malta, which, by the constitution of their Parliaments, have been taken away by new Constitutions from the local Parliament, and reserved to the Imperial Parliament. When referring to the Irish Free State, my right hon. Friend himself referred to matters under discussion in the Free State Parliament when proposing his Estimates, in such references to other Parliaments the only point of real importance is to be careful to observe where the line of demarcation is to be drawn as to the respective functions of the subordinate Parliament. Under these conditions, I am sure my right hon. Friend, who is an expert in constitutional law, will be the last to object to discussion here of reserved matters concerning Malta, which continue to be directly under his responsibility. The matter of first importance to which I wish to refer is the partial suspension to-day of the constitution by continuing to still keep vacant two seats in the Senate.
I will not discuss the stages of that suspension previous to the reservation of a Bill, but only speak with regard to the stages where imperial officers share the responsibility at a later stage. The constitution of Malta is an English document. It was framed by English lawyers, and the words used therein must necessarily have the meaning and the definition and the sense required by English law. Therefore what is a trades union in English law must be the sort of trade union con- 1870 templated under the constitution of Malta. If something different is created by definition, the constitution is changed, and it can only be altered by a majority of two-thirds in each House of the Legislature. If the Constitution is added to or is otherwise changed the person responsible for the change being, according to law, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs. In referring to the illegality of receiving a Bill passed by less than two-thirds majority, I submit that I am no more exceeding the limits within which I may speak here than was my right hon. Friend himself in the words he addressed to this House a few days ago with reference to grants of compensation to Irish Loyalists in the Parliament of the Free State of Ireland.
Another point to which I wish to refer is this: It is the duty of all Colonial Governors—I am speaking in general, and I have had experience in the position myself—not to interfere in local politics. When there is that interference, it becomes the duty of the Secretary of State to intervene to abate that interference. It has been publicly stated in Debates in the Parliament of Malta—I am not talking of the present Governor—
I have already told the hon. Member that he must not abuse his position in this House by referring to Debates in another Parliament, or to things which divide Members in another Parliament. If he knows anything about the constitutional position, he will realise that that would be the breakdown of our whole system of self-government within the Empire, and I must absolutely maintain that I shall never allow discussions of that kind to take place on the Floor of this House.
§ Sir G. STRICKLAND
I had no intention whatever of referring to the action of any other Parliament. I only mention the Debates as a source of evidence of fact. What I was saying was that when a Military Governor intervenes in local politics, my right hon. Friend becomes responsible for abating that interference, and for inquiring as to the responsibility of professional advisers appointed by the Colonial Office. It might have been questioned whether I had any evidence to prove that there has been political interference. I was only referring to the 1871 Debates as evidence of the making of that statement by those who asked to prolong the Governor's term of Office, and I would never have dreamed of entering into the Debates as such.
The other point to which I shall refer is that when specific complaints are made on a matter having reference to the functions of government under the responsibility of my right hon. Friend, the proper procedure is to appeal to him with written statements asking that the grievance shall be considered and dealt with on its merits; and then, if it is impossible to obtain consideration of any grievance or complaint in that way, it becomes a duty to bring the request for inquiry before this House because if the idea is engendered in the Colonial Service that permanent officials can commit wrong with impunity and that there is no appeal, it is impossible for the Colonies not to resent it and the whole Colonial Service will become demoralised.
As a matter of fact, the excellence of our magnificient Colonial service lies in this, that every Governor knows that when he comes back to England he is liable to answer before the English Common Law for any act done during his administration. On this particular subject I have tabled a motion for papers which contain the charges on which I have asked for inquiry, and up to the present I have had nothing but refusals. Therefore I hope that the Colonial Secretary, in the interests of his own prestige and his own reputation for efficiency and fairness, will grant the inquiries asked for as to matters for which he is responsible to this House.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for COLONIAL AFFAIRS (Mr. Amery)
A week ago my hon. Friend who has just sat down proposed to reduce my salary by £100. I now gather that he considers that my salary is inadequate. The hon. Member has blessed the gold standard and I will report his blessing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As to the problems he has raised with regard to Malta, I have not the slightest idea what he is driving at, beyond this, that he has referred to the interference of the Governor in local politics. Against that charge I make the strongest possible protest, and I wish to state clearly to the House 1872 that there has been no interference whatever on the part of the present Governor of Malta in local politics, or of his predecessor (Lord Plumer). No Governor, with the responsibility placed upon him as the representative of His Majesty, would ever think of doing anything that went beyond his constitutional duties and functions.
§ Mr. AMERY
I protest against the attitude which has been taken up by the hon. Member because what he has been raising are really his own personal and party grievances in Malta politics. Had he dealt with any specific question I should have been only too glad to answer him. He has done nothing except to make allegations and insinuations, and all I can do is to say definitely that I cannot for one moment admit the kind of accusation and inuendoes to which he has been submitting representatives of the Crown and British officials in Malta ever since he has been in this House.